Luis Enrique has labelled Thursday’s UEFA Nations League tie with Croatia as ‘all or nothing’ as his Spain side look to top their group.
A win against in Zagreb would ensure top spot for the 2010 World Champions ahead of England and Croatia in Group 4 of Tier A.
The 2018 World Cup runners up will be watched by a sell-out crowd at the Stadion Maksimir after England played in an empty stadium last month.
The two nations met in Elche back in September with Spain cruising to a 6-0 win over Zlatko Dalic’s team.Embed from Getty Images
“This match is totally different to the one we played in Elche. It’s a key and decisive game for both teams. The rest forms part of history”: Enrique said in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday evening.
“It’s the first game that will be all or nothing. If we win, we qualify for sure and if not, there’s another option. It’s a vital match for us.”
Asked whether Real Madrid duo Isco and Marco Asensio were fit enough to start Enrique replied: “I see 24 players prepared to play tomorrow for how they have trained. They could all start tomorrow.”Embed from Getty Images
Croatian fans will be able to attend the game in Zagreb having been banned from entering the stadium in Rijeka last month. Croatia were forced to play their Nations League fixture with England behind closed doors after Croatian fans burned a swastika into the pitch in a game against Serbia in 2015.
“After seeing the previous match against England behind closed doors, we are glad the stadium is full. It’s good for the spectacle and the players appreciate it”: was Enrique’s verdict.
Spain captain Sergio Ramos also commented on the potentially raucous and unwelcome atmosphere in the ground: “I would not mix sport and politics. I love playing in full stadiums.”
The Real Madrid captain has recently been booed by his own fans after a string of poor performances but the 4-time Champions League winner isn’t fazed: “I never say that they [insults] are unfair. If the Bernabéu gives you stick it’s because they think you can give more. I have seen them shout at great legends.Embed from Getty Images
Ramos’s Madrid teammate Luka Modric has come under fire lately for his below-par performances in a white shirt: “Unfortunately memory in football is in the past. Football is day by day. You miss certain players when they are not there.”
A win for Spain in Zagreb would all but confirm the final standings of Group 4 in the Nations League. Three points would confirm top spot for Spain and leave Croatia three points behind England with a far inferior goal difference. Therefore, anything other than a win for Modric’s men would result in almost certain relegation to Tier B.